This post includes my favorite Helsinki things to do. Some are old classics, others are new activities, such as SUP boarding. Previously I wrote about the Free Things to Do in Helsinki but this time I have included all kinds of activities. None of them will blow your bank though (unless you want to, of course). So here they are, in no particular order, 11 best things to do in Helsinki:
Oodi Central Library
I was so happy when I visited the new Oodi library in Helsinki for the first time. I was very proud that we have such a fantastic and modern place open to everyone for all kinds of functions. Not only it might be the best library in the world but also the building in itself is impressive architectonically.
Libraries used to be stagnant and quiet places with rows of bookshelves and shy librarians. But this is not how modern libraries thrive, in my opinion. The world has changed and libraries with it. Oodi has upped the ante and responded to these demands.
The library consists of numerous little spaces and rooms designed for different purposes, such as music listening, meetings, quiet working spaces and so on. In addition, you can do all kinds of things here, such as 3D modeling, organize cooking clubs, print posters, sew and the list goes on and on.
There are books of course but there is more emphasis on different functions and working spaces for students freelancers. Though in some areas you still need to be hush, in many places it is ok to speak. By the way, the opening hours are super user-friendly; Monday till Friday it’s 8am-10m and Saturday-Sunday 10am-10pm.
Kiasma Modern Art Museum
I’m not the biggest fan of modern art, to be honest, but I do visit Kiasma if there is something unexceptionally cool happening or the once monthly free admission (every first Friday of the month). Otherwise, it’s 15e for adults and children go for free.
Natural History Museum
The building itself is old and very beautiful. Compared to many metropolises, such as London or Berlin, this museum is not huge but the displays are wonderful. In my opinion, the whole building is worthy on its own so go and have a look. Outside, on the balcony, you can see 2 giraffes wawing at you. It’s a cute little detail.
Temple Rock Church
One of the most popular sights in Helsinki is the Temple Rock church in Töölö (just 5 minutes from the center really, you can walk there). The church is actually built inside a cave and you can walk on the garden on top of the church if you fancy. I doubt this would be possible in many other shrines in general. I guess we are not too conservative when it comes to religion (or perhaps I’m just used to the liberal attitudes among younger people).
Entry is 3 euros except on Friday evenings after 3PM (after 4pm starting from October). However, check out their website before you go since the church is often used for normal church functions and summertime especially tends to be busy with weddings.
Ateneum is the biggest art museum in Helsinki and Finland. They have different exhibitions but also a permanent collection of Finnish art (which also forms a part of the National Gallery) from the most famous Finnish painters, such as Schjerfbeck, Helene. If you have time only for one art museum, I’d suggest visiting Ateneum. Furthermore, they have internationally renown artists, such as Van Gogh and changing collections yearly. Admission 17 euros and under 18-year-olds go for free.
We have so many interesting islands here in the Helsinki Archipelago. There are different companies offering shorter and longer sightseeing tours and most of them leave from the Market Square. However, for a truly unique experience, book a private tour with a swanky Italian style boat and a jovial skipper.
You are able to make your own plans and only visit the islands, such as Lonna and Pihlajasaari, that you are truly interested in. But even better is that you are able to beat the crowds and travel with style!
One of the Most Relaxing Helsinki Things to Do: Töölönlahti and SUP Boarding
The cape of Helsinki is surrounded by water and Finland is also called the land of the thousand lakes so you can guess that we have some awesome spots for water sports. In recent years, SUP boarding has become hugely popular and I must say, I fell in love with this activity also.
There are many different spots in Helsinki for this, Töölönlahti being one of the most central ones. Here you can find Hakuna Matata, a cute little shack that rents out SUP boards, canoes, rowing boats, and kayaks. I got to explore the wonderful bay last summer as their guest and I have to say, the location is just perfect! Check out their website for more info: http://www.hakunamatata-sup.fi/en/rent/
For SUP yoga, try Allas Sea Pool right in the city center. I tried it last summer and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Click the link above for the whole story.
The Finnish public sauna seemed to be a disappearing cultural thing of the past a decade ago. However, the tradition has undergone a bit of a renaissance as we have seen a lot of new saunas being erected in recent years.
The very classic and old school saunas, such as Kotiharjun sauna and Arlan sauna in the previously working class Kallio neighborhood have faced competition from their modern counterparts, such as Löyly and Kulttuurisauna.
In my opinion, however, the best public sauna is still the quirky and free for all Sompasauna. I’d really suggest to visit it. Here you can get a glimpse of the rugged yet crazy Finnish mentality. We go to sauna naked but if you are feeling very bashful, you can also wear a bathing suit.
One of my favorite parks some 30 minutes by bus from the city center. It’s also possible to use the super handy Citybike since they have a bike station here. Seurasaari is a very versatile island. I frequently use it for jogging but summer time you can do sunbathing and swimming also.
What’s more, the island itself is actually an outdoor museum. I love the old and traditional Finnish buildings it has to offer. You only need to use your imagination to go back in time to see how the peasants and bourgeoisie lived.
Starting in May (until September) you can also go on a guided tour but in my opinion, this is not necessary. You will see quite a lot even without an entrance ticket. Admission to the island is free. They have a few cafes here and they are selling ice-cream at the entrance but a picnic would be a wonderful idea too.
Cafe Hopping in Helsinki
One of my favorite Helsinki things to do is, of course, cafe hopping. After all, I’m a real caffeine junkie and love to visit coffee shops all around the world. In summer, I’d especially recommend the outdoor ones since most of them are pretty unique. The little red wooden house, officially called Cafe Regatta, might be the most famous one but there are so many other fantastic options to choose from.
I love the outdoors Ihana Cafe at the end of Kalasatama district. It’s a cafe built in a container and it’s got a lovely patio with beanbags, hammocks and everything to make you feel comfortable on a warm summer day. This is also where you will find the most fascinating DIY sauna, Sompasauna which I already mentioned.
Visit the Market Halls
Visiting the market halls might be one of the best Helsinki things to do if you are a foodie. The old market hall is conveniently located right in the city center so in case you have time only for one, choose this. They have traditional Finnish delicacies and sweet cinnamon buns, korvapuusti, which Finns love. Definitely try the delicious salmon topped rye bread, the creamy salmon soup or some reindeer if you eat meat.
Unfortunately, Hakaniemen halli has its home in a temporary, huge, built-in container while the beautiful old building is under renovation. But don’t let the new modern look to fool you either: it has cute little boutique shops and cozy cafes and restaurants inside. Moreover, you can still see the old house next to the new one and admire its grandiose.
Hietaniemen halli is just a short stroll from the center too or you could use the tram. In summer, go treasure hunting at the very popular flea market outside at the huge parking lot. It gets especially busy on the weekends. Nowadays this market hall has its emphasis on restaurants and cafes but they have a few grocery and handicrafts vendors, too.
If you are hungry for some more Helsinki tips, take a look at these posts:
- Helsinki on a Budget
- Helsinki in a Day (Must-Do Favorites and Insider Tips from a Local)
- Helsinki Distilling Company: the Coolest Company for Finnish Whiskey & Gin
- The Best Vegan Restaurants in Helsinki (The Only Vegan Guide You Will Need)
- 25 Free (and Frugal) Things to Do in Helsinki
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